He's not doing a press conference before spring football kicks off Tuesday but we'll give you the next best thing from Steve Sarkisian.
Here's Sark's take from the Spring Media Guide available Monday on this Trojans team, its overall approach, both offense and defense and position by position, as USC heads into Sark's second spring with high hopes and just as high national hype. You might have to do a bit of reading between the lines on the coachspeak but there are some solid clues here as to where Sark sees this 2015 team is headed.
*** OVERALL OUTLOOK: “We realize what people’s expectations are for the program and we’re not going to shy away from them, we’re going to embrace them . . . That’s the reason all of us came to USC, to be the best and to uphold the standards that have been set here . . . With that said, now is the time for us to go to work. We need to build a team-first culture. We need to improve our physicality and develop a bully mentality. And we need to take advantage of our speed and athleticism."
*** THE NEW GUYS/DEPTH: “We have signed tremendous recruiting classes here that have added depth to our roster. We expect to be a better team in the fourth quarter this year and finish games stronger.”
*** ALL THE HYPE: “I’ve said it before, our future is ridiculously bright . . . We are excited for the upcoming season, but it is important that we understand the work and the team-first attitude that is required to be successful. Because someone says we’ll be good doesn’t mean it just happens, we need to work hard every day and develop as a team.”
*** THE OVERALL OFFENSIVE APPROACH: “We’re not going to stray very far from our offensive approach of a year ago . . . We want to continue to be balanced. We love to run the ball to set up the pass, but we know we have a very effective receiving corps, too. And we want to do all this in an up-tempo manner. This spring, we need to develop our physicality and emphasize our speed and athleticism while building an offensive identity and playing to our strengths.”
*** THE QUARTERBACKS: “It is always an advantage to have a senior quarterback leading your team . . . Nobody ever has had the kind of season Cody Kessler had last year and went as unnoticed as he did, but that serves as great motivation for him this season. He has a chip on his shoulder and I expect him to have another outstanding season. He has good vision and smarts, delivers a very accurate ball, is mobile, is able to make quick decisions and does a great job of leading our offense. Behind him, we have quality depth. There will be a tremendous battle for the backup role and the future starting job.”
*** THE TAILBACKS: “Justin Davis and Tre Madden give us a two-headed monster at tailback . . . Both are quality players who fit well in our system. We’ll be somewhat limited in the spring at this position, but help arrives in the fall with some explosive freshmen who give us depth and make this a position of strength.”
*** THE FULLBACKS: “We are very fortunate to have fullbacks like Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner . . . They have high football IQs and can do so much for us, which presents a real threat to the defense.”
*** THE WIDE RECEIVERS: “History tells us that USC always has great wide receivers and this year will be no different . . . Juju Smith has an opportunity to up his game to the next level this year. And I don’t think there’s a more exciting performer in the game than Adoree Jackson, as he can do something spectacular whenever he touches the ball. Their maturation and the maturation of all of the receivers will be critical for us to be balanced on offense. The receivers also must develop a rapport with Cody and they must all play at a high level this season.”
*** THE TIGHT ENDS: “Tight end is the position of our biggest concern because we don’t have the depth we want or need . . . We need everyone to step up here. We might have to rely on some young player to do double duty and use their athletic ability.”*** THE OFFENSIVE LINE: “When you build a team, you have to start up front, and we’ve done that now by developing the players we had on the roster as well as bringing in some talented recruits . . . We are fortunate that all of our starters are back this year, as well as some players returning from injuries and some really good newcomers. I love our line’s overall athleticism, toughness and attitude, plus its versatility and depth. I think Max Tuerk is the best center in the country and Toa Lobendahn is on his way to an all-star career.”
*** THE OVERALL DEFENSIVE APPROACH: “We laid down a solid defensive foundation last year, and now we must build on it and improve . . . We want to play with passion on every play and come with a bully mentality. We have the pieces in place and the scheme to have a successful, stingy defense.”
*** THE DEFENSIVE LINE: “We lost a generational player in Leonard Williams, but we are thankful that this year’s defensive line has a nice mix of veterans and talented young players . . . There is lots of senior leadership, while at the same time the new players will be hungry to push for playing time.”
*** THE OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: “In our system, the outside linebacker needs to be a versatile player . . . This position is critical to our success on defense. We have a group of players who have the ability to defend the run, rush the passer and drop in coverage while playing with high intelligence. Su’a Cravens is the model for that type of player and I believe he will continue to show this year that he is one of the nation’s top defensive players.”
*** THE INSIDE LINEBACKERS: “We lost a real leader in Hayes Pullard, but Anthony Sarao is a veteran who can lead this unit . . . It’s a position of good depth and talent. There will be a healthy competition to see who starts and who plays significant roles for us.”
*** THE SECONDARY: “We had growing pains in the secondary last year as we played a lot of youngsters who got better as the season went on . . . This year, I believe the secondary will be a strength for us, especially when you have someone like Adoree’ out there who can impact a game quickly. There will be lots of competition to get on the field and that will make us better at every spot.”
*** SPECIAL TEAMS: “We really value special teams play and spend a lot of time on it . . . It showed last year in our return game, where we always want to be explosive and aggressive. But we need to develop consistency in our coverage units. And the competition to find a new kicker will be one of the key battles to watch on the team this year.”CHECK THIS OUT: More details on Friday's workout at FRIDAY'S FINAL WINTER WORKOUT GHOST NOTES. You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.